September 24, 2022

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Vietnam: 170 Activists Detained And Harassed, Says Report

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Human Rights Watch has accused Vietnamese authorities of harassing and detaining more than 170 activists in the past two decades, in a new report.

Many were barred from leaving their homes by police, and some even saw their door locks superglued shut.

The rights group called for an end to the “systematic restriction” of the activists’ freedom of movement.

Vietnam’s one-party Communist state does not tolerate dissent, and frequently jails critics.

In the 65-page report released on Thursday, Human Rights Watch said it investigated numerous cases of restrictions imposed by Vietnamese authorities from 2004 to 2021.

The group said the government had prevented activists from domestic and international travel, including by stopping them at airports and border gates, and denying them passports or other travel documents.

The restrictions also extended to movement within Vietnamese borders, as activists reported intimidation by plainclothes security agents stationed outside their homes or neighbourhood thugs mobilised by the state; and finding themselves trapped in their houses as their doors had been padlocked from the outside.

In one example from 2016, land rights activist and advocate for political prisoners Huynh Cong Thuan found his door lock had been superglued shut to prevent him from leaving.

In a separate incident in January 2021, the authorities placed a rights campaigner, Nguyen Thuy Hanh, under house arrest for 10 days during the Vietnam Communist Party’s Congress.

“The authorities moved numerous soldiers to Hanoi to guard the Party Congress, yet that did not put their minds at ease,” she wrote on Facebook. “They brazenly robbed us, citizens who did not violate any law, of our rights to freedom of movement, and the police locked us inside our home throughout the entire congress.”

The restrictions on movement had resulted in activists not being able to attend protests, criminal trials, meetings with foreign diplomats and a US president – among other events – to highlight their cause, Human Rights Watch said.

The rights group urged the government to immediately end all restrictions on movement and amend laws that curb citizens’ basic rights to freely travel within and outside Vietnam.

“The Vietnamese government apparently considers it a crime for some people to attend human rights or freedom of religion events, or meet with visiting foreign dignitaries,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Vietnam has repeatedly defended its human rights record. Last year, It applied to serve on the UN Human Rights Council for the 2023-2025 term. Deputy Prime Minister Pham Bin Minh, then also foreign minister, declared during a high-level meeting of the Rights Council that his country continued to “put emphasis on the protection and promotion of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of our people, even in this most difficult of times”.

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